Feature

Superbrands case studies: Kenwood

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.

Market

Kenwood Electronics UK is best known for its in-car entertainment equipment -- a valuable and competitive sector, changing as rapidly as automotive and audio technology advance, along with drivers' expectations of the perfect in-car 'experience'. It competes in this market with the likes of Sony, JVC, Pioneer and Alpine in addition to the own-label sector. Car manufacturers are not only increasingly providing many hi-tech accessories as standard features or optional extras, but people are demanding more gadgets as they spend more time travelling in their cars. Nowadays, a CD player is a regular option on most new cars - a luxury reserved only for the top end of the market just a few years ago. And, as traffic congestion increases, in-car navigation systems are also becoming more common, with Kenwood also being an important player in that growing market.

Kenwood is not only a leader in in-car multimedia and navigation systems; it is also a major player in the mobile radio market, providing technologies for both amateur and professional users. Kenwood's mobile radios have attracted vast popularity, especially from government sectors including the Police Force and Ambulance Service. It also works with Formula One racing teams, which rely on Kenwood's Pit-to-Car communications equipment, in a sport where the most technologically advanced equipment can mean the difference between winning or losing.

History

Kenwood Electronics UK Ltd is the British subsidiary of its parent company, The Kenwood Corporation, based in Japan.

The Kenwood Corporation began as a small, family business in December 1946 producing small components for radios and amplifiers.

The Kasuga Radio Co Ltd, as the company was originally known, marketed its products under the brand name Trio. Within ten years, it was producing a huge variety of audio and communications equipment and was fast establishing a reputation for high quality and innovative products.

Kenwood first arrived in the UK, still under the brand name of Trio, and began as a small sales distributor marketing home hi-fi equipment. The name Kenwood was finally adopted in the UK in 1987.

Kenwood now comprises two divisions in the UK: Car Hi-Fi and Communications. The Car Hi-Fi Division was established in the early 1980s and, soon after that, in 1990, the Communications Division was established to expand the UK market and distribute Professional Radio (PMR) and Amateur Radio (AMA).

The Kenwood Corporation now has over 40 subsidiaries all over the world, from China to the US.

Product

Kenwood's highly acclaimed ranges have produced award-winning products in nearly every category of in-car entertainment across the years. From head units, amplifiers, speakers and sub woofers to up-to-the-minute navigation and multi media systems, Kenwood remains at the forefront of the car electronics industry.

Riding the wave of digital entertainment, Kenwood has developed a range that makes it possible to equip a car with the very latest audio-visual entertainment and navigation equipment which technology can offer. Its product range brings the entire spectrum of audiovisual entertainment to the car, including DVD receivers, flat retractable colour monitors, surround sound, digital radio (DAB) tuners and the very latest in in-car navigation systems.

Kenwood's new generation multimedia systems include the KVT-925DVD and KVT-725DVD multimedia systems, which feature a TV display that automatically slides out of the unit, allowing the viewing of TV and DVDs to add to the in-car entertainment experience. The DDX7025 motorised sliding viewing monitor features an easy-to-use intuitive on-screen user interface.

Kenwood's intelligent, high-precision navigation systems are designed to guide the driver to a destination with ultimate ease and comfort. Kenwood's extensive range includes the newly introduced KNA-DV3200, featuring a three-dimensional or two-dimensional map display, voice recognition control, voice guidance in twelve languages and optional remote control.

Reflecting the growing use of compressed digital audio entertainment, such as MP3 and WMA, Kenwood has introduced the KHD-C710 Kenwood Music Keg. The Music Keg allows around 2,500 songs to be stored in a 10GB cartridge, which can then be played in the car with all the ease and convenience of a CD. A USB docking cradle allows songs to be easily transferred from a PC. A Music Manager makes it easy to extract tracks from a CD and then save them in MP3, WMA, WAV and FLAC formats, and then organise them into playlists.

With such desirable equipment, security is obviously an important issue. Kenwood offers improved security with FP-MASK, allowing the unit to be masked with a motorized folding panel. The panel has a unique MASK Key function, which means the unit can only be reactivated if the panel that holds the identical MASK KEY is re-attached. In addition, the new FP-MASK structure also facilitates the previously difficult task of mounting Flashing LEDs on the hidden surface of the detachable panel.

Kenwood's wide range of in-car amplifiers includes the KAC-PS811D, which has a mighty capacity of 1600w at peak power. It is also renowned for its speaker systems, including shelf-mounted sub-woofers and four-way flush-mounted systems. Kenwood has re-worked its mid-range speaker system to produce what it calls the Image Enhancer system, which optimises the sound via a redesigned central housing.

They also feature the revolutionary lightweight 'DualMags' system.

Kenwood's Communications Division divides its product into two categories - PMR (Private Mobile Radio) and Amateur Radio. Its amateur range includes sophisticated transceivers for use by radio enthusiasts and FM handheld transceivers - otherwise known as 'walkie talkies' - and FM mobile transceivers. Kenwood's PMR products are widely used by professional organisations, including the emergency services.

Recent developments

Kenwood has a policy of updating its technology and innovations year-on-year. In 2004, enhancements in the car electronics range include the new FP (Folding Panel) Mask. The FP Mask display has effectively doubled the total space available for both control and display panels.

Kenwood has also developed a new motorised slide mechanism featured on the KDC-W6527. Now, with the touch of a button, the display/control panel smoothly slides down to reveal the CD slot with power assisted loading and ejection.

Kenwood has renovated its amplifier line-up. Standing out amongst the many improvements is the new 'Amp Control System', which allows the user to display status information such as voltage, current and temperature on the head unit.

On the communications side, Kenwood has updated its market leading TK-260/360 private radio with the TK-2160/3160. This new product sets the pace in the sector with its compact size feature set and ruggedness. This radio establishes a new benchmark of performance for private mobile radios.

Promotion

Kenwood has used a wide range of media over the years including television, cinema, and press as well as sports sponsorship programmes. Currently, the brand is using a more focused approach and is mainly using press advertising in the few specialist magazines that exist as well as the more mainstream motoring press.

In addition a new and more proactive website was launched in 2003 which now supplies consumers with more detailed product information, dealer information and Kenwood news and reviews. It also offers the opportunity to download images and screensavers and to find answers to many frequently asked questions.

Consumer shows are another important part of Kenwood's promotional activity and each year a demonstration car is commissioned with the company's latest products for use at local shows and large national shows such as Max Power Live 2003.

Kenwood's car hi-fi advertising for products such as the innovative FP Mask and the Music Keg, mainly use the specialist car hi-fi press.

Meanwhile, the brand's advertising for its communications products again uses the specialist press but has been adopted as a pan-European campaign. This features products from across the range, including the new TK-2160/3160.

Brand values

Kenwood's brand values are built on the company's reputation for excellence - the culmination of advanced communications know-how and leading edge technologies.

The three sides of red triangle in the 'w' in the Kenwood logo represents and acts as a constant reminder of the brand's key values, namely Style, Quality and Advanced Technology.

© 2004 Superbrands Ltd

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